Integrating self-governance in heavily regulated policy fields: insights from a Dutch Farmers' Cooperative

Termeer, C.J.A.M.; Stuiver, M.; Gerritsen, A.L.; Huntjens, P.M.J.M.


Throughout the world, there is a growing interest in communities’ selfgovernance of natural resources. However, many self-governance initiatives proceed with difficulty, particularly when these initiatives conflict with established rules and institutions. This paper addresses the question of the extent to which, and under what conditions, self-governance initiatives can become successful in heavily regulated policy fields. It, therefore, analyses a self-governance initiative by a Dutch farmers’ association from two theoretical perspectives: Ostrom’s institutional design principles and insights from the politics of self-governance. Whereas, Ostrom’s principles focus on arranging interactions between the members of a self-governing community and their common resources, the focus of the politics literature is on the negotiations between the community and the governmental authorities to obtain room for self-governance. The paper reveals how the arrangements within the association influenced the negotiation between this community and the involved authorities, and vice versa. This mutual relationship can both positively and negatively influence the accomplishment of self-governance. Adequate self-governance arrangements can help to convince policy-makers to provide room in existing policies to accommodate self-governance. Conversely, policy-makers can help to set conditions for designing successful arrangements. Otherwise, both processes can negatively reinforce each other, and this can result in stalemates and blockades. KEY WORDS: self-governance, natural resources, institutional design principles, politics, agriculture, cooperatives